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A mad dash at Afton Alps

A Warrior Dash runner takes a leap Sunday from a junked car onto a pile of tires. The obstacle led to another, where runners were blasted by water shot through a snow-making machine. Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker

DENMARK TOWNSHIP -- Cody Fudally had just completed a three-mile foot race where he battled flames, long hills, mud puddles and high winds.

"I'm actually kind of wanting to do it again right now," the Apple Valley man said. "Seriously."

Indeed, there was madness of all kinds on display Sunday at Afton Alps Ski Area.

After all, there are races, and then there was the Warrior Dash - the grueling two-day foot race where runners donned Braveheart-fashioned regalia, togas and facepaint as they negotiated the one-of-a-kind course.

"The hills," Burnsville resident Jake Sallander said, "were killer."

He and runners from around the Midwest ran the course that forced them to slog through mud, hurdle flames, climb walls and battle water blasted through a snow-making machine. Intentionally.

The race drew thousands of contestants - 500 runners were sent out each half-hour for 10 hours during each of the competition's two days - and fans to Washington County.

The athletes' payoff? A beer and a turkey leg - the race's signature prize for its so-called "warriors."

Woodbury resident Rebecca Tessmer was one of the thousands of people who signed up for Warrior Dash.

"It's so different from any other race," she said.

You can say that again.

During the race - held at Afton Alps Ski Area - runners encountered 11 separate obstacles staged along the course. Race organizers dubbed it an "extreme run from hell."

The foreboding description didn't scare off Tessmer.

"I like the challenge," she said.

Tessmer, who began running less than a year ago, was in search of her next challenge after having competed in 5K races. That was when she heard about Warrior Dash from a coworker.

"I was very intrigued," she said.

She enlisted the help of her husband, Eric, a longtime runner, in preparation for the race. The two ran side-by-side Sunday.

"He stays beside me to motivate me," she said.

Tessmer, who played softball and volleyball in high school, said she had been training for about six weeks in advance of the race by running and lifting weights.

"It'll be grueling," she said before competing.

On Sunday afternoon, she crossed the finish line - mud-covered and nearly singed from flame.

Yet there was still one task left: consume the beer and turkey leg.

"What could be better?" Tessmer said.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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